Back to the Borderland...

With the end of the semester having arrived, I'm currently preparing to head back home to Phoenix, Arizona. My family's Christmases are usually spent in my mom's hometown of Nogales, Mexico, one of the areas that has been most affected by the iron fist that's come down on illegal immigration over the past few years in the U.S. I've been thinking a lot recently about Nogales and the border area in anticipation of being there soon, and  felt I should comment on what I see when I travel there. As depicted in the film we watched earlier in the semester, the wall that has been erected along the Mexican/American border seems starkly out of place when you see it. Beautiful desert hills and sprawling flatlands are harshly interrupted by a man-made slab. I thought about this in relation to what happened at Hetch Hetchy. Needs of the people (in Hetch Hetchy's case, water supply) ultimately overruled the preservation of the land. While it's arguable that the wall along the border is even meeting a domestic need (I, personally, feel it's flawed), it still calls to mind a conflict that has existed in the past and will presumably continue to exist between societal needs versus the preservation of the natural environment around us. Where does one draw the line between what is truly necessary for the benefit of society and what is simply exploiting the environment?

Back to the Borderland...

With the end of the semester having arrived, I'm currently preparing to head back home to Phoenix, Arizona. My family's Christmases are usually spent in my mom's hometown of Nogales, Mexico, one of the areas that has been most affected by the iron fist that's come down on illegal immigration over the past few years in the U.S. I've been thinking a lot recently about Nogales and the border area in anticipation of being there soon, and  felt I should comment on what I see when I travel there. As depicted in the film we watched earlier in the semester, the wall that has been erected along the Mexican/American border seems starkly out of place when you see it. Beautiful desert hills and sprawling flatlands are harshly interrupted by a man-made slab. I thought about this in relation to what happened at Hetch Hetchy. Needs of the people (in Hetch Hetchy's case, water supply) ultimately overruled the preservation of the land. While it's arguable that the wall along the border is even meeting a domestic need (I, personally, feel it's flawed), it still calls to mind a conflict that has existed in the past and will presumably continue to exist between societal needs versus the preservation of the natural environment around us. Where does one draw the line between what is truly necessary for the benefit of society and what is simply exploiting the environment?

Another holiday-related post...

I hadn't realized that the option to rent a live Christmas tree even existed, so reading the info regarding that below was pretty interesting. In related news, the New York Times recently posted an article about an increasing popularity in the purchase of artificial Christmas trees as a way to help the environment. The information that they exposed in response to this idea, though, suggests that fake trees may not be the 'greenest' way to go this holiday season. Apparently, in order for an artificial tree to make an impact on the environment, it would have to be kept and used for  nearly 20 years. Most only last for 10. Plus, the use of a real tree omits 1/3 the amount of carbon that the use of an artificial tree would. Read the article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/18/business/energy-environment/18tree.html?_r=1&hp

Reading this article also really made me question how 'green' our society's green efforts truly are. There are so many factors that go into the production and distribution of a given product (reminds me of the post that someone made about ketchup earlier in the semester...). I realized that there are factors affecting the 'greenness' of the tree that aren't entirely visible to consumers. The amount of gas used to transport a tree, the type of machinery that is used to cut it down, or, in the case of the fake tree, put it together... It all affects how the tree impacts our environment.

High-rise Farms Response

 This is meant to be a response to the High-rise Farms post.

High-rise farms can put people closer to fresh fruits and vegetables, help absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and cut down on a huge amount of pollution and emissions from the transportation of foods.  This is a very green idea that, if put to use, could be very effective.  I think this is a practical and useful plan with a lot of potential for creating a greener future.  

Rooftop Gardens Response

 This is meant to be a response to the Rooftop Gardens post.

I think rooftop gardens are a great idea, not just in New York City but also in just about any urban area.  Cities are dominated by concrete, asphalt, brick, and metal - materials that are hot, unnatural, and uncleanly.  Rooftop gardens not only make cities cooler but they help to filter the air and absorb carbon dioxide.  In my research I found a short article on a building constructed at a university in Singapore.  The five-story building's entire roof was covered with grass and plants and served as one of the major common areas for university students to hang out and spend time outdoors.  This kind of urban-nature symbiosis is a mentality that must be continued in the future.  As populations continue to grow and cities grow larger and more prevalent, me must begin integrating nature with technology and the urban environment.  It is a way of the future that, in my opinion, is very exciting aesthetically pleasing. 

Greenest of Gadgets

After doing some research on some of the newest green gadgets on the market, I felt that I had to share them.  One of the coolest new gadgets I found was the Samsung Blue Earth, a cell phone made of recycled plastics that has an internal pedometer and, best of all, is solar powered.  Another one of my favorites was the "corky" cork computer mouse.  Made almost exclusively from recycled cork, this mouse actually charges itself through the movement of your hand, no batteries required.  A new rocking chair in the market uses the kinetic energy from your back and fourth rocking motion and converts it into usable electricity for whatever your needs.  These chairs are popular in airports where people can sit down and take a break while charging their laptop or cell phone.  But my favorite green gadget that I found was an alarm clock powered by water.  This clock does not require being plugged into the wall or the use of batteries because it runs simply on water.  innovations and green technologies like these are what keep us thinking, imagining, and expanding our horizons.  

To learn more about awesome gadgets like these visit ... www.mnn.com/green-gadgets

No more Golf??

We all know Hamilton is constantly competing with other colleges in making an effort to become as “green” as possible. This not only has major environmental benefits, but it builds the school’s reputation and can have positive economic returns. The school participates in a nation-wide energy battle, uses wind, solar, and geothermal energy to cut its carbon emissions directly, and implements many other environmentally friendly tactics. The question that arises is how far is the school planning on going? A section of the most recent Hamilton Climate Action Plan discusses the topic of carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the process of removing carbon from the atmosphere. While oceans are one of the largest mediums for absorbing mass amounts of carbon on the global scale, Hamilton’s dense arboretum removes a decent portion of the carbon we emit. Having a large number of trees on campus helps to offset our carbon footprint. However, in 2009, a recent graduate of Hamilton proposed the reforestation of some of the open areas on campus in order to offset 547.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide (equating to a 2.28% annual emissions reduction). The main location for this suggested reforestation is Hamilton’s golf course. Now while the course is not quite up PGA standards, it does serve as an optimal stress relieving escape from schoolwork for many students. It also provides students with one of the best options to enjoy the outdoors as a social scene. The Action Plan mentions that the reforestation would need to be a communitywide decision weighing the advantages and disadvantages. While I am entirely in favor of the college taking drastic measures to reduce its carbon footprint, I do not believe that taking away one of the ways that students can easily connect with nature should be strongly considered.

Hamilton Climate Action Plan: http://www.hamilton.edu/documents//sustainability/HamiltonClimateActionPlan-Aug09.pdf

Acid Precipitation

One of the most controversial aspects of our current energy usage is the formation of acid precipitation. Nuclear power plants and other industrial factories release large amounts of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Because they are released through smokestacks, the chemicals do not get trapped in the local wind currents. Instead, the majority of them flow into the trade winds and can be carried for many miles before falling to the ground. The implementation of smokestacks was originally introduced so that pollutants would not be heavily concentrated in the densely populated cities surrounding the factories. While this was beneficial for the health of those flocking into the cities as they were rapidly expanding, it has proven to have numerous detrimental consequences.

Issues arise when the acidic precipitation impacts a region downwind of the source. The Northeast United States is one of the most vulnerable areas in the world to the damaging effects of acid rain. The high concentration of nuclear plants in the Midwest is responsible for a constant stream of pollutants being carried in the prevailing westerlies (the trade wind at our latitude). When these pollutants reach the mountainous New England region, they stick to water droplets in clouds and fall to the ground. Thousands of acres of beautiful New England forests have been devastated by the elevated pH levels in the soil (remember Terry Hawkridge explained how essential the pH of soil was for the health of a tree). This has obviously stirred up a heated debate between conservation groups in New England and the energy corporations in the Midwest. While the energy companies implement the use of tools such as scrubbers to reduce emissions, but they are not able to eliminate the pollutants that form acid rain. Active New England environmental groups contend that the energy companies are directly harming the environment by the inevitability of their pollutants being carried eastward. On the other hand, the fact that the energy companies in the Midwest are so disconnected makes taking action more challenging. The formation of acid rain has become one of the most controversial “who’s problem is it?”environmental issues.   

Tree-happy Holidays

With the holiday season already upon us, it made me think just how environmentally unfriendly the holidays can be.  Just think of all the wrapping paper, ribbons, Christmas cards, lights, fake reindeer, and ugly sweaters that are thrown away each year.  So much extra paper and plastic is either burned or throw into landfills and trees are cut down by the thousands to decorate living rooms all over the world.  Now I am not trying to boycott the holidays for the sake of our Red Pines and Douglass Furs, but there are ways that we can have our holiday season while putting a little less stress on the environment.  Interestingly, I found an article on MSNBC.com titled "An Earth Friendly Christmas Tree" that had just what I was looking for.  The Original Living Christmas Tree Company in Portland, Oregon has begun renting out live Christmas trees for individuals interested in having a live tree in their home in a more environmentally friendly way.  And even better, this company picks the tree up at your door after New Years and plants it at schools and parks in your neighborhood.  What better Christmas company could there be?  This holiday season, spread a little Christmas cheer Mother Nature's way and support your local rent-a-tree company.

For more information about Christmas tree rentals follow this link... www.livingchristmastrees.org

Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder's recording of the Into the Wild soundtrack was not surprising considering his environmental activism.  Considering the EarthFirst! tattoo that he has, contributing to a film with an environmental message like this would be a great addition to the image he has built.   



I found this an interesting contrast to the albums and songs we listent to about the suburbs.  Vedder's music is a great addition to the story and encourages a desire to explore the wild and reject society for a while.  In one song, "No Ceiling," he sings, "As I walk the hemisphere, got my wish to up and disappear.  Sure as I'm leaving. Sure as I'm sad, i'll keep this wisdom in my flesh."  Many of the lyrics follow in this same vein and inspire a positive connotations concerning McCandles story.



One song, “Society,” expresses a more all-encompassing theme of environmental protection.  The song seems more of a political piece, that gives the movie more of an environmental label.  



Society



hmmm ooh hooo hooo



It's a mistery to me


we have a greed


with which we have agreed



You think you have to want


more than you need


until you have it all you won't be free



society, you're a crazy breed


I hope you're not lonely without me



When you want more than you have


you think you need


and when you think more than you want


your thoughts begin to bleed



I think I need to find a bigger place


'cos when you have more than you think


you need more space



society, you're a crazy breed


I hope you're not lonely without me


society, crazy and deep


I hope you're not lonely without me



there's those thinking more or less less is more


but if less is more how you're keeping score?


Means for every point you make


your level drops


kinda like its starting from the top


you can't do that...



society, you're a crazy breed


I hope you're not lonely without me


society, crazy and deep


I hope you're not lonely without me



society, have mercy on me


I hope you're not angry if I disagree


society, crazy and deep


I hope you're not lonely without me


Eddie Vedder's recording of the Into the Wild soundtrack was not surprising considering his environmental activism.  Considering the EarthFirst! tattoo that he has, contributing to a film with an environmental message like this would be a great addition to the image he has built.   

I found this an interesting contrast to the albums and songs we listent to about the suburbs.  Vedder's music is a great addition to the story and encourages a desire to explore the wild and reject society for a while.  In one song, "No Ceiling," he sings, "As I walk the hemisphere, got my wish to up and disappear.  Sure as I'm leaving. Sure as I'm sad, i'll keep this wisdom in my flesh."  Many of the lyrics follow in this same vein and inspire a positive connotations concerning McCandles story. 

 

hmmm ooh hooo hooo

It's a mistery to me
we have a greed
with which we have agreed

You think you have to want
more than you need
until you have it all you won't be free

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me

When you want more than you have
you think you need
and when you think more than you want
your thoughts begin to bleed

I think I need to find a bigger place
'cos when you have more than you think
you need more space

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

there's those thinking more or less less is more
but if less is more how you're keeping score?
Means for every point you make
your level drops
kinda like its starting from the top
you can't do that...

society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

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